slip of the tongue?

Is it just me, or is the use of language becoming more slippery and less honest? Maybe it’s rose-tinted nostalgia glasses but It seems to me that it was not so long ago that people spoke more plainly and honestly. Let me give you some examples of what I mean:

There’s a word that seems to have crept into regular use by politicians. It is used to try to deflect allegations or inferences of lying or getting something wrong: “I misspoke.” It’s as if the words accidentally tumbled out of their mouth without them being in control of them.

On other occasions when someone being interviewed does not want to answer a question they answer a different one they prefer, despite any attempts by the interviewer to get them to answer their question (perhaps best exemplified by when Jeremy Paxman asked the same question 12 times to an intractable Michael Howard in 1997).

Newspaper articles, blogs and social media posts put their own editorial bias on events and report them either favourably or unfavourably depending on that bias (look at how different newspapers referred to the Brexit campaigns if you doubt me).

The recent debate between the US Presidential Candidates was, at times, a shouting match where each candidate spoke over the other one to make their point and refused to listen.

Of course Christians would never be like that. Would we? Really? Not in church meetings (misvote?), leadership team meetings (misserve?), sermons (mispreach?), talking about someone with another person (misshare?), emails (mistype?), a social media platform (mispost?)…

Jesus had some very tough things to say about what we say and how we say it, recorded in Matthew 12: “33 ‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’”

James takes this theme even further in his open letter – James 3:1-12. Here are the last 3 verses: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Words can be weapons of mass distraction and mass destruction and they can be as healing as medicine and surgery and as affirming as a hug. The clear message from Jesus and James is that what we say reveals what’s going on under the surface. We need to show integrity in how we speak (written or verbal). Integrity means: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” and “the state of being whole and undivided.” Hmmmm.

Let’s pray Psalm 19:14 – “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

bite your tongue

Swiss KissLast week I bit my tongue. No, I wasn’t trying to keep silent when there was a temptation to say something, I genuinely bit my tongue. It hurt.

This morning I realised that the wound caused by my tongue gnashing was a lot better. I felt pleased about that, because it had been awkward, irritating, and made eating Salt and Vinegar crisps impossible.

At lunchtime today I bit my tongue. no, I wasn’t trying to keep silent when there was a temptation to say something, I genuinely bit my tongue. Again. It hurt. Again. I even managed to draw blood! No more Salt and Vinegar crisps for another week at least.

I don’t think my tongue has suddenly and unexpectedly grown longer. I don’t think my mouth has suddenly and unexpectedly got smaller. If I am honest I am at a loss to explain why I should suddenly start taking chunks out of my tongue.

I wonder if self-inflicted wounds hurt more than those caused by somebody else. I think they do because not only is there a physical wound, there is also injured pride and (if you have bitten your own tongue twice in a week) a sense of feeling rather silly.

Of course that’s not only true of us as individuals. Wounds inflicted within a family can hurt badly and endure longer because they are inflicted by somebody whom we love and trust. Wounds inflicted within a church can similarly seem to last longer and be more difficult to resolve because we share a common faith and a common sense of community and purpose.

That is where Grace steps in amazingly. If you have time, have a look at this video which contains images are set to the U2 song, Grace. I pray that I may be an agent of such grace: making beauty out of ugly things, finding beauty in ugly things, bringing the presence of the all gracious God to those who need it.

Be blessed, be a blessing

This is reportedly an actual phone dialog of a former WordPerfect customer support employee, included here to make me feel less silly for biting my tongue twice in a week:

Support: “Hello, Technical Support; may I help you?”
Customer: “Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.”

S: “What sort of trouble?”
C: “Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.”

S: “Went away?”
C: “They disappeared.”

S: “Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?”
C: “Nothing.”

S: “Nothing?”
C: “It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.”

S: “Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?”
C: “How do I tell?”

S: “Can you see the C:\ prompt on the screen?”
C: “What’s a sea-prompt?”

S: “Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?”
C: “There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.”

S: “Does your monitor have a power indicator?”
C: “What’s a monitor?”

S: “It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it’s on?”
C: “I don’t know.”

S: “Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?”
C: “Yes, I think so.”

S: “Great! Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into the wall.”
C: “Yes, it is.”

S: “When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?”
C: “No.”

S: “Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.”
C: “Okay, here it is.”

S: “Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of your computer.”
C: “I can’t reach.”

S: “Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?”
C: “No.”

S: “Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?”
C: “Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle-it’s because it’s dark.”

S: “Dark?”
C: “Yes-the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.”

S: “Well, turn on the office light then.”
C: “I can’t.”

S: “No? Why not?”
C: “Because there’s a power outage.”

S: “A power?!? A *power* outage? Aha! Okay, we’ve got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?”
C: “Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.”

S: “Good! Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”
C: “Really? Is it that bad?”

S: “Oh, yes, I’m afraid it is.”
C: “Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?”

S: “Tell them you’re just too darn stupid to own a computer.”

>oh my word(s)!

>I have just finished reviewing a couple of books for a Christian magazine. It was great to be able to read two books on the same subject while keeping my brain alert so I could give a fair review. However, the problem came when writing the review that I thought one book was better than the other

I have been honest and, I hope, fair in my evaluation of the books  However I was very conscious of my responsibility to both the readers who may be influenced by my review  in their decision about whether or not to buy the books, and the authors who clearly put a lot of effort into the books regardless of what I think of them.

PharaohWords are incredibly powerful things and can influence, injure, inspire and incapacitate people. They should all come with a public health warning! My parents used to say to me, “Engage brain before opening mouth.” I used to think they were being silly. Now I realise the wisdom of those well-chosen words. Once the words have left our lips they are out there and can not be recovered.

James has a lot to say about the words we choose to use in chapter 3 of his letter in the New Testament:

 3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
 7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
 9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Hmmmmm. **brain being engaged**

A boy was watching his father, a pastor, write a sermon.” How do you know what to say?” he asked.

“God tells me.”
“Oh,” said the boy, impressed. Then he added, “So why do you keep crossing things out?”

Side effects

I have now seen a physician who has taken my temperature, peered down my throat as I said ‘Aaaah’ and diagnosed a sore throat. She was not prepared to diagnose it as Man Flu (notice her gender, see yesterday) and did not give the ailment a name. I felt bereft, not being able to give what ails me a special name. A friend came the rescue though and suggested I call it ‘Bob’ (thanks John!).

The physician prescribed antibiotics to get rid of Bob and in a moment of boredom induced by being oppressed by Bob I read the accompanying leaflet. I was intrigued by the description of possible side effects. There were some which, if they occur, require immediate consultation with a Doctor. Then there was this section:

Other unwanted effects which are more likely to occur are:

* nausea, vomiting or stomach upset

* diarrhoea

* black hairy tongue.

If you notice any of the above side effects, or you notice any other unusual or unexpected side effects and think your tablets may be causing them, please inform…

HOLD ON! Go back a paragraph.

Black hairy tongue????!!!!!

Are they SERIOUS?

I was sufficiently alarmed by black hairy tongue that I looked it up online. It sounds like someone thought that nobody ever reads the leaflet that accompanies drugs so they would slip black hairy tongue in and have a laugh.

Yuck! It’s a real ailment! It looks so revolting that I have decided against putting a picture of it on my blog in case it frightens you away for good. If it’s a choice between vomiting and nausea, diarrhoea and black hairy tongue I would prefer either (or even both) of the first two. (Not that I would like either of them!). If I go into hiding you will know that I have succumbed to black hairy tongue. It sounds like a tongue that has gone feral – living wild and growing a black mane – like the difference between a domestic pig and a wild boar! Black hairy tongue even makes Bob seem less life-threatening.

In the New Testament Paul wrote about wild tongues (admittedly not black hairy ones) to several churches. He seems to be convinced that if we do not keep our tongues under control we can seriously undermine or destroy what God is doing. Not by blowing raspberries (or at least not just by doing that) but by gossip, slander, undermining others and all sorts of other destructive talk. If I am repulsed by black hairy tongue, how much do these other wild tongues repulse people from encountering God through his people?

Some tongue twisters: (to be spoken aloud as fast as you can and repeated – preferably in polite company!)

Seth at Sainsbury’s sells thick socks

Eleven benevolent elephants

Red lorry, yellow lorry

One smart fellow, he felt smart.
Two smart fellows, they felt smart.
Three smart fellows, they felt smart.
Four smart fellows, they felt smart.
Five smart fellows, they felt smart.
Six smart fellows, they felt smart.